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Giants-Cowboys ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review — “Knuckleheaded things” edition

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Dishing out praise and criticism after another defeat

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get to the ‘Kudos & Wet Willies,’ we have to talk about the state of the New York Giants. It’s not good. Not good at all.

The black cat who showed up on the field at MetLife Stadium on Monday showed a lot of life, sprinting around the field and zigging and zagging away from a futile pursuit before dashing down a tunnel.

The Giants after their fifth straight loss, this one a 37-18 loss to the Cowboys in which the fatal wounds were all self-inflicted? All they showed was despair and resignation as they tried to put a brave face on yet another loss that could have been a victory and should never have been as lopsided as the 37-18 final score turned out to be.

Perhaps Golden Tate was the most distraught of all. The wide receiver nearly escaped the post-game media inquisition, but ended up surrounded by a throng of reporters just steps from getting out the locker room exit.

Tate had a vacant, blank expression as he answered questions, admitting that he was trying to frame his responses “very delicately.”

Still, Tate said the Giants “played extremely undisciplined football” and did too many “knuckleheaded things.”

The Giants managed to turn a 12-3 lead into a 13-12 deficit in the final 1:05 of the first half, then managed to turn a 16-15 deficit after three quarters into a 37-18 blowout loss. Turnovers, curious coaching decisions, defensive breakdowns and inability to sustain anything resembling consistent offense all contributed.

Defensive back Michael Thomas leaned against his locker both looking and sounding tired and resigned to the fate of this struggling team. He tried to put up a brave front, but it was clear he was feeling worn down.

“We fought real hard and then it just seemed like at the end, it kind of came loose. You know what I’m saying? It just kind of came loose, so that’s frustrating. But we can’t fold. Never quit. We can’t fold. But it’s tough,” Thomas said. We just have to find a way to finish. Right now, young team, but there are no excuses. Young team, guys making mistakes, some big plays toward the end. Have to find a way to finish and not make those same mistakes. It’s growing pains, but we’re going to get it.”

It was the same all around the room. Somber, disbelieving expressions. Hushed tones. Promises to keep fighting, to try and execute better and fix the “small things’ (Evan Engram’s expression) that are leading to losing. There were even questions asked of players, for the first time I know of, about whether they still had faith in head coach Pat Shurmur. A question, incidentally, anyone asked answered in the affirmative.

I have written a number of times, including just the other day, about what progress by the end of the season would look like. It certainly doesn’t look anything like what we saw Monday night.

We saw a team that continues to make mistakes, continues to miss opportunities, continues to do too many things that lead to losing rather than winning. The Giants looked like a team that isn’t making progress.

In the locker room after the game, the players looked like they knew it, too.

Kudos to ...

Football Cat! Monday’s “feline interruption,” as it was called in the MetLife Stadium press box was fun. In fact, it was the best thing about the entire game. Kevin Harlan’s call made it even better.

Cody Latimer — The Cowboys kept kicking the ball short and challenging Latimer’s ability as a returner. He answered with returns of 50 and 41 yards, ending up averaging 30.2 yards on six returns. He also caught a touchdown pass.

Antoine Bethea — I still think the 35-year-old 14-year veteran playing is pointless for a team that has to be pointed toward the future, but I have to give credit where it’s due. Bethea played well Monday. He made a terrific interception on the game’s first play, stepping into the passing lane and picking off Dak Prescott. Bethea also recovered a fumble, had a pass defensed and made nine tackles. It’s unfortunate he had to make that many, but it’s a good thing he did.

Lorenzo Carter — I hadn’t really thought about including him as he didn’t really have a game-changing impact. As Chris noted in a post-game message to me, though, “he’s really rounding into form as a linebacker, if not an EDGE rusher.” Carter did play well.

Wet Willies to ...

Aldrick Rosas — A Pro Bowl placekicker in 2018, Rosas missed an extra point Monday for the second straight week. He didn’t miss a single extra point last season. He is also just 8 of 10 on field goals after going 32 of 33 a season ago. I don’t think anyone expected Rosas to struggle like this.

Pass defense — I’m not sure which rookie cornerback busted the coverage on the 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, but between DeAndre Baker and Corey Ballentine one of them did. Baker shows flashes of being a good cover corner, but also continues to be in the middle of assignment errors by the secondary. Ballentine, playing in the slot in place of Grant Haley, gave up a touchdown that was erased by offsetting penalties and was part of the foul-up on the Cooper score.

Both players seem to have bright futures, but the growing pains — this was Ballentine’s first real action — are costly in the short term.

The Giants also gave up a 42-yard touchdown to tight end Blake Jarwin, who ran more than 30 yards after catching a pass. It would have been nice if someone actually tried to tackle him.

The Giants have now surrendered 11 passing plays of 40 yards or more, tied with the Green Bay Packers for most in the league.

Run gameSaquon Barkley gained only 28 yards on 14 carries, a ridiculously low total. The run-blocking wasn’t good at times, but Barkley also has not appeared to be the same explosive player since suffering his high ankle sprain.

Run defense — I can’t pin this on any single player, but you have to commit to stopping the run against Dallas. The Giants, using only two true defensive linemen far too often, didn’t. They paid for it as Ezekiel Elliott ran 23 times for 139 yards. In the post-game, Elliott said it was “the easiest 140 yards I’ve ever gained.” The Giants simply didn’t offer much resistance.

As a whole, the defense surrendered 429 total yards. That’s the fifth time in nine games an opponent has gained more than 400 yards, equaling how many times that happened all of last season.

Kwillie to ...

Daniel Jones — The rookie quarterback made a couple of good decisions on zone reads and ran six times for a team-high 54 yards, 9.0 yards per carry. He committed three more turnovers, though, and couldn’t get the Giants into the end zone in four of five trips into the red zone.